Stories to Tell for South Asian Heritage Month

17th August 2023

We can grow and thrive by remembering our roots

Our Race and Ethnicity Affinity Group continues to honour South Asian Heritage Month and this year’s theme ‘Stories to Tell’, facilitating conversations with our colleagues to learn more about their experiences and share their stories. This week, we hear from our Senior People & Organisational Development Partner, Ayesha Shokar, about how her experiences and influences have shaped who she is today.

Tell us about you and your role at Civica?

As a Senior People & OD Partner and Global DEI Lead (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) my role is to support our colleagues at every stage of their Civica journey, develop People plans that support our business strategy as well as accelerate our dedication and commitment to DEI by promoting inclusive cultures and valuing difference.

Why is South Asian Heritage Month important to you?

I am a real mix of cultures; I was born in the UK, I am British through and through. My Grandad was Mauritian, he travelled to India in his early twenties to find work and settled there, marrying my grandmother of Indian descent. And my mother’s side are predominantly from South Africa. My heritage represents who I am and what I am made up of, and I am so proud of that mix and blend.

How do you think your heritage has impacted your current position?

My father always encouraged me to ‘never forget our roots’. I don’t think I ever really appreciated or understood the true meaning of his words growing up. As a British Indian, I was living and caught up in-between different cultures.

I have sadly faced and witnessed racism and discrimination at various points of my life. In all honesty, the discrimination and racism at school made me question and reject some aspects of my culture and heritage growing up.

I never could understand why the colour of skin mattered so much to some and I still don’t understand it even to this day. Experiencing racism and discrimination gives you determination and you learn early on in life that you must work two or even three times harder to get the same results as others.

What do you feel proud of about Civica and/or your role with Civica?

My experiences have made me passionate about DEI and I want to do my bit to make a difference, and this includes opening our minds, delving into our unconscious biases, and challenging our thoughts to think and see things differently.

Who’s inspired you in your career and/or outside of work?

I have been fortunate that I have come across many inspiring individuals who have shared their experiences, knowledge, and wisdom with me over the years including teachers, colleagues, and friends. But none more so than my father, whom I have an incredible respect for, appreciation of, and bond with.

What do you think is an important part of South Asian history that impacts the world today?

Learning about the British rule (Raj) in India, during the period 1858-1947, and the impact of partition will resonate will lots of people around the world. Partition was the division of British India into two separate states of India and Pakistan. It was a traumatic time for many people, including violence and loss of life, uprooting, and changing lives forever with many aspects of culture being lost.

Today the two countries' relationship is far from healthy and the impact and consequences of this affect many people across the globe.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

My mix of cultures makes me unique, it makes me ‘me’ and I love and embrace that!